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Extension projects aim to increase healthy foods access, improve diets, increase activity

URBANA, Ill. – One in 10 Illinois residents struggle with hunger every day, according to Feeding America. The number increases to one in eight for children. When families are hungry, making healthier choices can be difficult, especially if they are also struggling financially.

Six University of Illinois Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education projects were recently funded. The projects focus on increasing access to more nutritious foods and improving the nutrition and activity choices of limited-resource Illinois families.

The Health Equity Achieved Together Project is a multi-disciplinary project with Illinois SNAP-Ed and other programs within University of Illinois Extension, including Illinois 4-H and Community and Economic Development. Selected projects will develop and implement innovative strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce community barriers to adopting healthier lifestyles. Working with others across Extension enables the HEAT Project to leverage its expertise and networks across Illinois, thereby maximizing the positive impact on the health of Illinois families.

In addition, HEAT Project awardees will engage with local stakeholders and community members as they design and implement their initiatives. Projects will also plan sustainability and inclusion strategies to ensure that the projects have long-lasting community impact.

"The HEAT Project is a unique opportunity to give members of marginalized communities a voice in finding solutions to increase food access, improve their diets, or be more physically active," says Trinity Allison, Extension family and consumer sciences specialist.

Funded projects include:

  • Zion Healthy Together Project: Lake County
  • Whiteside Wellness Wheels: Whiteside County
  • Peoria Youth Wellness Community Partnership: Peoria County
  • Integration of the French-Speaking Community to Promote Food Access: Schuyler County
  • Southern Illinois Food Access: Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Pope, Saline, White, Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, and Union Counties
  • Illinois Deer Donation Program Pilot: DeWitt, Piatt, Macon, Moultrie, Douglas, Coles, Cumberland, Shelby, Fayette, Effingham, Jasper, and Clay Counties

SOURCES: Trinity Allison, Extension Specialist in Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Illinois Extension; Amy Funk, Extension Educator in SNAP-Ed, University of Illinois Extension

WRITER: Beth Peralta, Media Communications Specialist, University of Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.